Orlando Area: Theme Parks Plus - My Family Travels

Though my parents took my sister and me to Orlando, Florida before I entered elementary school, I barely remember the trip. Hoping to refresh my memory and create memories for my youngest sister, we took the trek again.

To avoid crowds, we planned our trip for February 19th through the 25th. When we boarded Delta Airlines on Sunday morning we were pleasantly surprised by our experience. Our departure and arrival were on time. On the plane, we marveled at the buildings as they shrunk below us. Of course, we were just as happy to see the snacks and beverages that they brought half way through the flight.

We arrived happy and stepped into the warm air, but our moods quickly deteriorated as we got lost, arrived at our Embassy Suites condo late, and ate greasy pizza for dinner. While a correct map is helpful, but after a long day traveling, make sure you have a fantastic navigator.

After a decent night’s sleep, we got on a free shuttle to Universal’s Islands of Adventure Park. Our first stop was The Magical World of Harry Potter. As a member of Harry’s fan club, I couldn’t wait. The first glimpse of the Hogwarts Express was breathtaking. Unfortunately, our supposed-to-be-crowd-free Monday was Presidents’ Day and some wait times were hours long. We lunched at Three Broomsticks, shared Butterbeers, rode The Flight of the Hippogriff, and explored Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. My favorite ride by far was the Dragon Challenge. It was my first real roller coaster, and I was absolutely terrified. Afterwards, I would have gone again. The Jurassic Park Discovery Center was adorable, but the water ride – Jurassic Park River Adventure– was sort of scary. We also explored Seussland.

On Tuesday, my family was ready for a break from the crowds. Hoping to see manatees, we went to Blue Springs State Park, and “sea-cows” were in abundance. We spent hours watching groups of manatees and mother-baby pairs. At one point, we were less than 6 feet from them. We also hiked to the mouth of the spring and listened to an informative presentation about manatees and the park’s work.

Since we still had time, we headed out to New Smyma to swim in the ocean. The town was about 45 minutes away from Orlando – the quaint town was pastel-colored and peaceful. The public beach that we found was nearly deserted, and a nearby bathhouse was useful. We went home tired but happy.

For the third morning of our stay, we headed back to Universal Studios. After the Islands of Adventure, the lack of themed decor was a little disappointing. However, the lines were much shorter, so we rode more rides. Our favorites were The Simsons Rideand Men in Black: Alien Attack.
On Thursday, we went to Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom. We spent the day wrapped in Disney’s classic charm of fairy tales, child-friendly rides, and “magic.” My favorite ride wasSpace Mountain. We ended up staying for the electric parade and the fireworks, far later than we’d stayed at the other parks; it was worth it.

The next day we slept late, then returned to New Smyma Beach for our final afternoon in Florida. We lunched at a local restaurant, shopped on the boardwalk, and swam. After ice cream cones and a drive on the beach, we headed back to our condo to pack and prep for our return trip via Delta airlines.

Our second trip to Orlando was as perfect as we could have hoped for. It was a relaxing, family-filled vacation.

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